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"Sharper" potting mix

Posted by gcotterl riverside calif (My Page) on
Mon, Jun 23, 14 at 10:05

A reply to my "Non-draining pots" post recommends that I should "rethink the medium I'm using and go with something more sharp draining, with larger particles, better aeration, and more room for error in watering".

I'm using Miracle-Gro Potting Mix.

Since I don't want to "mix my own" potting mix, what commercially-available potting mix should I buy?

This post was edited by gcotterl on Mon, Jun 23, 14 at 10:32

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: "Sharper" potting mix

  • Posted by Drew51 5b/6a SE MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 24, 14 at 1:31

I like Fafard and Happy Frog. Fafard dot com has a store locator, just put in your zip. But MG isn't as bad as all say here. People here advocate a pine, peat, perlite mix, and well that is exactly what miracle grow is. Ha!
It has more peat, so does stay a little wetter. Also the moisture control keeps it moist, actually an excellent idea. What you use depends on the plants you are growing. Some will do terrible in MG, others will thrive.
Pro mix is almost all peat and some swear by it. Again it really depends on what you are trying to grow.
If you want a potting mix like 5-1-1 Fafard is the way to go. if you hate the soilless dead 5-1-1 mix, Happy Frog is fantastic! A great living mix. I myself use about 7 -10 different mixes depending on the plants I'm growing.
If you're looking for plants to live 5-1-1 works well as a general mix. if you want them to excel, you need to talk to the growers who specialize in the plants you're growing. They will know what works best.
Many species are beyond my scope of knowledge, you should seek out multiple opinions before you decide what to use for a specific plant.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Tue, Jun 24, 14 at 1:37

RE: "Sharper" potting mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 24, 14 at 17:42

Gcotterl - Most of the problems container growers come here seeking help for are already growing in the types of soils already mentioned. Also, recommending Fafard soil w/o some clarification is like saying a leather baseball glove is the best choice. Not very clear, is it?

Fafard (now Sungro, actually) makes a LOT of soils, and not all of them are suitable for maintaining plants over the long term. For clarity, 'the long term' would be 1 or more full growth cycles. Many of Fafard's selections are designed for short term use, like getting plugs started or greenhouse crops to a saleable size/age.

The best of the Fafard products for general purpose container growing, if you can find them, would be their nursery mix or their 51L mix.

When it comes to container media, excess water retention is probably the most common limiting factor, and water retention is directly related to particle size. Ideally, your soil would hold as much water as possible inside of soil particles, and as little water as possible between soil particles. This ensures water availability w/o the soggy layer of soil at the bottom of the pot that causes so many problems.

Air is as important to root health as water. Soils that are highly aerated and drain well are easier to grow in, and much more forgiving of grower error.

That's a little groundwork to get you thinking. I'll leave you a link to some info that goes into a lot more detail about how water behaves in soils. Understanding this concept is probably the largest step forward a container gardener can take at any one time. Even if you don't make your own soils or can't find one that isn't excessively water retentive, the information can help you understand how to deal with the excess water retention. There is also a thread that was written specifically to help growers work around excess water retention. I'll link you to that too, if you're interested.

Best luck!


Here is a link that might be useful: Click me to learn about how water behaves in soils

RE: "Sharper" potting mix

"People here advocate a pine, peat, perlite mix, and well that is exactly what miracle grow is. Ha! "

Not exactly.....Miracle Grow is mostly peat, with some perlite and bark. The advocated mix, or more commonly called 5-1-1, is mostly pine bark, with some peat and perlite. There's a huge difference between the two. MG turns to mush after a few months, 5-1-1 does not.


RE: "Sharper" potting mix

Fafard is pricey stuff around me, not sure about other areas of the country though...

RE: "Sharper" potting mix

You can have one or, if you're lucky, two of the following: best quality soil mix, cheapest soil mix or easiest to find and use. You can't have them all. I prefer the 5-1-1 mix. It's cheaper and better quality than any commercially available potting mix I've been able to find, but it takes more effort and thought to find and mix the different ingredients. So if you choose the easier route, you'll either have to pay a lot more or settle for lower quality and worse results.

RE: "Sharper" potting mix

Or sometimes things are just overpriced due to the name...

Fafard is one of those situations in my opinion. It is a great mix, but the nursery's charge an arm and a leg for it.

Same goes for ProMix too, overpriced IMO.

I get a mix by "Long Island Compost" called their grower's mix, that will stand up in quality to any Fafard mix, and is dirt cheap (forgive the pun) in comparison to Fafard or ProMix. 12 bucks for a 3 Cu Ft bag.

Most local nurseries will sell their own mixes for far cheaper than any of the branded stuff, and it is usually as good or better quality.

It is a fallacy that paying more always gets you a better product. For example, most generic cereals in the grocery store are the same exact product as the name brands.

RE: "Sharper" potting mix

"rethink the medium I'm using and go with something more sharp draining, with larger particles, better aeration, and more room for error in watering"

Those are my words, and I must have been very tired when posting if I neglected to include a link to Tapla's information on container soils and water retention - or basically, how water behaves in soil, the simple science and physics.

My bad... I should have gone into more detail for you. But I think you'll find the information you're looking for in the link Tapla left for you.

I can't believe anyone would compare MG bagged soil to the 511 or Gritty Mixes... they couldn't be more different, not only in ingredient ratio, but in how broken down the MG is compared to the 511 and Gritty Mix.

Tapla is right... "When it comes to container media, excess water retention is probably the most common limiting factor, and water retention is directly related to particle size." This is why I always recommend a sharper draining medium made up of larger particles... sort of like bonsai medium, or a finer orchid mix as examples.

Once you understand the concept... the why and how... of a larger particled medium, and you make it past the initial learning curve in working with such mixtures, you will see the results for yourself.

I've had awesome success growing in this type of medium... and i'm not the only one!

Happy Growing!

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